Boys basketball: Mead unveils championship banner before falling to Horizon

Loss ends the Mavs’ 12-game winning streak dating back to last season

  • Mead High School's James Shiers (No. 15) dunks the ball in the game against Horizon High School on Wednesday, Dec. 15, 2021. (Matthew Jonas/Staff Photographer)

  • Matthew Jonas/Staff Photographer

    Mead High School's Nathan Hoffman (No. 3) tries to shoot over Horizon High School's Tabor Robison (No.4) on Wednesday, Dec. 15, 2021.

  • Mead High School's Nathan Hoffman (No. 3) puts up a shot in the game against Horizon High School on Wednesday, Dec. 15, 2021. (Matthew Jonas/Staff Photographer)

  • Mead High School's James Shiers (No. 15) collides with Horizon High School's Blake Kramer (No. 3) under the basket on Wednesday, Dec. 15, 2021. (Matthew Jonas/Staff Photographer)

  • Mead High School's Nathan Hoffman (No. 3) passes the ball over Horizon High School's Kyle Northrup (No. 2) on Wednesday, Dec. 15, 2021. (Matthew Jonas/Staff Photographer)

  • Mead High School's Nick Basson (No. 1) drives around Horizon High School's Kyle Northrup (No. 2) on Wednesday, Dec. 15, 2021. (Matthew Jonas/Staff Photographer)

  • Mead High School's Will Tenore (No. 21) collides with Horizon High School's Blake Kramer (No. 3) on Wednesday, Dec. 15, 2021. (Matthew Jonas/Staff Photographer)

  • Mead High School's Elijah Knudsen (No. 2) drives around Horizon High School's Max Thornton (No. 11) on Wednesday, Dec. 15, 2021. (Matthew Jonas/Staff Photographer)

  • Mead High School's Matt Murphy (No. 23) tries to shoot over Horizon High School's Coby Jimenez (No. 21) on Wednesday, Dec. 15, 2021. (Matthew Jonas/Staff Photographer)

  • Mead High School's Elijah Knudsen (No. 2) puts up a shot past Horizon High School's Tabor Robison (No.4) on Wednesday, Dec. 15, 2021. (Matthew Jonas/Staff Photographer)

  • Mead High School's James Shiers (No. 15) looks to shoot as Horizon High School's Coby Jimenez (No. 21) tries to block the shot on Wednesday, Dec. 15, 2021. (Matthew Jonas/Staff Photographer)

  • Mead High School's Corby Tecu (No. 33) puts up a shot in the game against Horizon High School on Wednesday, Dec. 15, 2021. (Matthew Jonas/Staff Photographer)

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LONGMONT — Before Wednesday night’s home opener in front of a party-like atmosphere, Mead players climbed into the bleachers to reveal its championship banner.

A while later, visiting Horizon had quite the celebration of its own.

The Class 4A No. 1 Mavericks had sent their first three 5A tests off the court in a hangdog gaze but were dealt with a biting turn of fortune in their fourth.

Reigning 4A player of the year Elijah Knudsen ignited a home crowd that hadn’t been allowed inside the gymnasium during the team’s title run last season due to the pandemic with a quickfire deep strike 16 seconds in and finished with a team-high 18 points. Not even he could rescue Mead in its 62-55 loss, though.

The senior was direct following the team’s first loss since February.

“The fact is, that banner we hung tonight doesn’t mean anything for this year,” Knudsen said. “Brand new season. Not really a new team, but a new year.”

Mead, returning six of its top eight players from a season ago, looked sunk as it fell into a 13-point hole late in the third quarter. In rallying near all the way back, it proved its championship moxie.

James Shiers had all 13 of his points after Mead trailed 47-34 with 2:42 left in the third. With the 7-foot-1 senior leading the comeback, the Mavericks got it within one twice in the final 2:05. His two-handed dunk made it 56-55 with 67 seconds remaining.

Esmond Griffin, who had eight of his 18 points in the fourth for the Hawks (6-2), responded with a reverse layup that pushed the advantage back to three. He and Ambrose Montano sealed it from the line, hitting four straight over the final 11 seconds.

At the buzzer, Horizon’s bench ran onto the court in celebration. It jumped inside a mob along with their student section, and the hooting and hollering went long into the parking lot.

“We’re going to see that every game,” Shiers said. “I feel like Horizon winning that game, they kind of took it as they won state. You could see their reaction to winning that. We’ll see those student sections at every game because people want to come out and beat us and give us their best.”

Mead (3-1) had previously swept a trio of 5A teams — Monarch, Prairie View and Legacy — to win the Highlands Ranch Tip-Off Classic earlier in the month. Eleven days after that, its 12-game winning streak dating back to before last year’s playoff run ended.

Following the pregame festivities, the opening half teetered back and forth — one team riding high in front of its first home crowd in nearly two years, the other trying to spoil it.

Knudsen hit all three of his 3s before the break and fellow-guard Nick Basson hit his first three shots as the Mavs led by as many as six in the half. Horizon countered, holding Mead scoreless over the final 3:52 of the second quarter to grab its first lead at 31-30 going into the break.

“I don’t think our effort was great tonight,” Knudsen said. “I think that’ll come soon enough. It’s a great learning point tonight. We have to want it more than the other team does.”

To start the third, the Hawks pushed the lead to 47-34 on a 16-2 run that spanned 4:43. Mead raced it back with a 13-2 run of its own as Shiers’ first seven points of the game had brought the Mavs back within a bucket at 49-47 with 4:55 remaining.

But Mead never could grab the lead and Griffin’s late charge helped finish it for the Hawks.

“I feel like everyone is going to put us off after this game, which is fair,” Shiers said. “I know losing is a big factor. But it’s going to show our toughness, it’s going to show our grit at the end of the season and we’re going to show everyone why we’re No. 1.”

Mead is scheduled to start play in a tournament in Las Vegas Friday.